For decades Berlin's multi-functional Olympic Stadium, built for the 1936 "Nazi" games, has served as the "home" of Bundesliga club Hertha Berlin. But rarely do enough fans show up to fill the enormous stadium.
Hugely impressive and steeped in history, the Olympic Stadium is also hard to fill
As a result Hertha's management is currently pondering saying "Auf Wiedersehen" to the stadium -- where legendary black US sprinter Jesse Owens made athletics history 72 years ago by bagging four Olympic gold medals -- and building a new "soccer-only" stadium elsewhere in the city.
For Hertha, the drawback with the Olympic Stadium is its size. The athletics track bordering the pitch also means fans are some distance from the soccer action, unlike crowds at Frankfurt, Hamburg, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, which itself moved from the Munich Olympic Stadium to the Allianz Arena for similar reasons, where stands rise just a few meters from the touch-line.
Berlin's Olympic Stadium has a 76,000 maximum crowd capacity, but about the only time Hertha draws a crowd that size is when it plays Bayern at home in the league. At most other games, the stadium remains only about 50 percent occupied.
This has led to discussions at the club, with officials -- club manager Dieter Hoeness among them -- openly favoring a "soccer only" club ground.
Hertha pay around 4.5 million euros in annual rent for the Olympic Stadium, and are currently contracted to stay at the Olympic Stadium until the year 2017 but Hoeness says the club is not seeking to change that arrangement.
But he notes that if Hertha pursues the idea of building a new club ground a minimum period of seven or eight years planning would be needed before it was realized.
Huge home ground swallows smalls crowds
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Hertha's problems were highlighted a fortnight ago when the club entertained Dublin side St Patrick's Athletic in an UEFA Cup match at home, and only 13,000 spectators showed up.
Similarly at the club's first two home league matches this season the home ground was barely 50 per cent occupied while last season average attendances of 44,483 were achieved.
Berlin city government officials have been surprised by the talk of Hertha possibly wanting to exit the Olympic Stadium.
For Erhart Koerting, Berlin's Social Democrat Interior and Sport Minister, the Olympic Stadium is a world-famous sports facility, as evidenced by its hosting of the 2009 World Athletics Championships.
It underwent a major 282-million-euro revamp in the run-up to the 2006 World Cup, when it was endowed with a spectacular oval-shaped roof, towering 68 meters above its enlarged seating area and bevy of VIP loges.
For that reason alone, Hertha could not expect financial support from the public purse if it was to build a new stadium, said Koerting.
Opinion divided over relocation
Few sides can boast such a spectacular home stadium
Even Hertha league players are divided by talk of a new stadium. Steve von Bergen, a club defender, says: "It would be a shame if Hertha no longer played at the Olympic Stadium. The stadium is a monument. Every day people come to look at it, even when there isn't football activity there."
Club goalkeeper Jaroslav Drobny takes another view. "Naturally the Olympic Stadium has a long tradition, but times have changed. When Hertha played St Patrick's recently the stadium was empty, one could hear the fans, but not see them," he claimed. "The club deserves to play in a stadium which is 100 per-cent tailored for football," he reckons.
Midfield player Fabian Lustenberger, on the other hand, says the "football atmosphere" at the stadium is not as bad as it's often painted. "In Dortmund or Hamburg the soccer feeling is great but at Bayern Munich the atmosphere's hardly sensational at times," he points out.